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By Roz Rogoff

Planning Commissioners reach out

Uploaded: Jan 5, 2011

The Planning Commission held a public workshop on the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan before its regularly scheduled January 4th meeting. Express Reporter Glenn Wohltmann's news story about it is on the Home Page. My spin on the workshop is here.

Planning Commission Chairman Harry Sachs scheduled the workshop to inform residents about the NCRSP and how and why it was developed. His purpose was to reach out to residents to make sure they understood what the NCRSP is for and why a Specific Plan appears more specific on paper than it will probably turn out to be in the long run.

Chairpersons from the Transportation Advisory Committee, Economic Development Advisory Committee, and Housing Advisory Committee were invited to explain their committees' input into the plan and why they made the recommendations they did. But as the Commissioners listened to the explanations from the Advisory Committee Chairs, they came to wonder themselves if the plan they now have is the best plan for the area.

Harry Sachs may have planned this workshop to educate residents, but he learned a lot from it. He listened and asked questions instead of trying to be the teacher. The other Commissioners asked questions and gave their insights into the discussion too.

Carol Lopez, Chair of the Parks and Community Services Commission, said there needs to be two parks, one in the residential section for children and one in the commercial section for office workers. There are no parks in the current plan.

Several Department Managers were on hand to answer questions and explain state laws and other restrictions that California cities are put under by the State Assembly. Pleasanton was alluded to as "a city to the south" that had to pay a $4M fine for not including enough "workforce housing" in its plans.

The original 2010 General Plan included 1124 residential units in North Camino Ramon area. The North Camino Ramon Specific Plan increased that number to 1500. Small business owner Kevin L'Hommedieu doesn't want 1500 residential units downtown, but political activist Gibbon supports that number.

L'Hommedieu feels that San Ramon is trying to be too much like Dublin and not enough like Danville. Personally I don't see why we should be like either. San Ramon needs the revenue from sales tax instead of letting it slip away to Dublin, while keeping the small businesses that give the city its charm.

Economic Development Director Marc Fontes explained that because San Ramon is built out, and the other shopping areas all have supermarkets as anchor stores, the only place to put big box retail is in the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan area.

I asked why a big box store couldn't be put where the Le Asia Market was, since it took two years to get that to replace the Ralphs. Commissioner Donna Kerger said big box stores want to be in locations with other big boxes, but Fontes said he would look into it.

I thought this was a very productive workshop. It opened up lines of communication not only from the Planning Commission and its subcommittees to the public, but from the public to the Commission. After all we are all just residents who care about our city.

I've always been impressed by the way San Ramon's Planning Commission works together. Even when the membership changes, the Planning Commission remains a group of individuals who communicate with each other to make decisions without falling into group think.